A Dream Continued: Death Valley to Vegas
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Do you want to know how we got to Bridgeport in the first place? That’s another story.
We got up very early in the morning, packed our stuff and threw a last glimpse on the room we had spent that last seven hours in. Furnished with a king-size bed and a queen-size one as well as a kitchenette, and providing enough space to spend a two-week holiday with a family, it looked less inviting than it had done the evening before. Dusty curtains with a worn floral print, splintered paint on the bedside table, a cobweb in the shower. Shabby – but charming nevertheless. We had been looking for something cheap as we knew we would not do anything but sleep in whatever room we were going to take. The owner of the first motel we had stopped at had told us where to go, adding that the owner of that motel relied on his discarded furniture. Even if – seemingly – there was no other trade in Bridgeport, the second hand trade worked well.
With two large suitcases we stepped out of our room and onto the motel’s parking lot and closed the pastel colored wooden door behind us to be greeted by bright sunshine. I went for the reception to return our key and get us two cups of those diluted coffees you’ll only get in a motel, from the tap, in styrofoam cups. What a waste of resources. The motel breakfast consisted of seemingly home-baked muffins and cookies and I got two of each as well, which made a terrific breakfast with the cheese crackers we had left over from the day before. Not. Not saying I was craving for something healthy to eat, an apple, a banana, a yogurt, anything. Just saying. There were no open supermarkets in the small Sierra Nevada town, and the truck stop was still closed as well when the boyfriend steered our car back onto highway 395.
Around 360 miles and six hours later, we arrived in Las Vegas. We had been driving through Death Valley National Park in a hurry, but we had found the time to get out of the car three times. I was wearing thongs that day, so our first walk into the desert had been rather short. We had parked the car at the side of the street and decided to walk to the nearby dunes. Apart from some dry scrub there had been nothing but sand all around us. I like the heat and I tend to be cold sooner than hot but the sand running around my feet had become unbearable after a while. I was able to stand it on an even ground but as soon as we had started to climb the dunes I had to give up with burning feet.
The second time we had gotten out of the car was to see one of Death Valley’s landmarks: The lowest point of the North-American continent which is accessible via a paved route and thong-adequate therefore. Plastic thongs might have left marks on the pavement but mine had not. Together with a bunch of other tourists, we had walked onto the platform to catch a glimpse of the truly non-spectacular sight at Badwater Basin and shoot some pictures before rushing on. At last, we had stopped for a few minutes to have a look at the National Park entry sign when we exited Death Valley to continue down south.
In retrospection, it seems as if when on the road we never heard any music but Guns N’ Roses for the whole trip. Which is not entirely true, as we also had at least one Phoenix and a Michael Jackson album with us. But when we turned onto the Strip, Paradise City was playing on the radio. True story. As we drove past billboards offering legal help, desert estates and disputable red-light offers, we opened the windows of our Cobalt and soaked in the air of Las Vegas that stretched out in front of us like an endless promise. You either hate it or love it, and we both decided we loved it the minute we saw the streets lined with palm trees, glistening advertisements, run-down pawnbrokers, and bling bling of the hotels on the Strip. Las Vegas seemed to be everything we had expected. Blinding and illusory but engrossing and compelling. Completely artificial yet entirely unique. Authentic in its very own character.
We checked into Treasure Island and walked through a labyrinth of blinking one-armed bandits playing their joyful jingles, roulette wheels and retirees playing cards and sipping on cocktails, jewelry shops and even a tattoo studio to get to the escalator taking us up to our room on the 12th floor. Up there, the sounds of the gambling hall were far away. The carpets, curtains and cushions on the floors and in the room seemed to drown all noises. Everything was dead quiet. Our room offered a beautiful view on the Strip and on the hotel’s artificial lagoon – the place where they host their pirate shows in the evenings. Now, in late afternoon, the pirate boat was anchored behind an artificial riff, looking completely bland. At dusk, when we were in the room to dress for the evening, we would hear the cannon fire and see the sparks of the fireworks accompanying the show. We never watched it anyway.
At the very moment we did not feel like staying in the room at all – which was much cleaner and more modern than the accommodation we had left early in the morning, but not as charming – and instead grabbed our swimwear, stripped off our clothes and carelessly discarded them into a corner of the room and onto the bed. Five minutes later, we went straight for the pool. After a long day in the car and the heat of the desert, we felt like we had deserved something to cool us down. It was a bit weird to walk through the gambling hall in just a bikini and thongs while some of the players were all dressed up in suits and ties and leather shoes, or else, cocktail dresses and high heels. But then again, this was Las Vegas after all.
Pop music was playing on the bar radio when we stepped back into the burning sun, got ourselves some towels and a cold beer, and made a race for the pool. In Las Vegas, you cannot only drink alcohol in public; you are also allowed to do so in pools – no glass allowed though. Two days and nights of relaxation were lying ahead of us and we started them with a Bud light. We would decide to extend our stay by one night a day later. We would get used to the pop music playing everywhere, as we did to the flippancy of the Las Vegas lifestyle.